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‘The situation is shocking’: Senator leads charge against for-profit blood collection





Some senators are invoking memories of the tainted blood crisis — when more than 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and hepatitis C from poorly-screened blood products — to put an end to the re-emergence of for-profit plasma clinics.

Justice Horace Krever led the public inquiry into what was arguably the largest public health disaster in Canadian history. He recommended the establishment of an entirely voluntary blood collection system — to avoid the pitfalls that can come when private companies pay people to donate their blood.

Despite Krever’s pleas, at least one outfit — Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) — has opened two clinics in Canada that offer financial incentives in exchange for plasma donations. The clinics are operating legally and with all the necessary approvals from Health Canada and provincial governments.

Eighteen more such private clinics are awaiting approvals as companies look to cash in on the booming demand for raw plasma, a protein-rich fluid component of blood which is used to make pharmaceutical blood products such as intravenous immunoglobulin, the treatment of choice for patients with antibody deficiencies.

While CPR eventually wants to build its own manufacturing plant in Canada, all the plasma it collects in Canada now is sent abroad.

Independent Saskatchewan Sen. Pamela Wallin is leading the charge against the clinics in the Red Chamber, urging her fellow senators and the government to pass her bill — S-252, the Voluntary Blood Donations Act — and arguing the alternative is the proliferation of clinics like the ones CPR recently opened in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Wallin said too few Canadians remember the tainted blood scandal well enough to fear a repeat.

“When you say Justice Krever, nobody knows what you’re talking about. It was too long ago,” Wallin said in an interview with CBC News.

While the origins of the scandal were multifaceted and complex, the Krever inquiry of 1993-95 cited a lax screening process for high-risk donors, the failure to use certain tests to screen for hepatitis C and the importation of blood from certain areas in the U.S. as the principal means by which infected blood entered the system. It also flagged paid donations as a safety risk.

An estimated 8,000 Canadians are still living with health complications after receiving transfusions of tainted blood between 1980 and 1990.

Sen. Pamela Wallin: “When you say Justice Krever, nobody knows what you’re talking about. It was too long ago.” (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“We need to remind people what happened in the country and why Justice Krever said, ‘Please, please, please keep this a public, accountable system, do not go in the other direction.’ He was very passionate about that,” Wallin said.

Dr. Barzin Bahardoust, president and CEO of Canadian Plasma Resources, defended his company Wednesday against claims that paid plasma collection poses a risk.

“This criticism is definitely not based on facts,” Bahardoust said in an interview with CBC News. “This is definitely not a safety risk. We collect plasma for manufacturing. It’s not blood or plasma that is used for direct transfusion into patients. This is a distinct procedure.”

As for Krever’s call to prohibit paid collection, Bahardoust said screening measures have improved dramatically since the tainted blood tragedy and federal regulations have been tightened on how prospective donors are screened.

“Justice Krever looked at this over 25 years ago. The recommendations were made based on events, on what happened in the 70s and 80s. How we are doing things right now (is) very different, including the advancement of how we test the plasma … and the steps we take to inactivate or remove infectious agents, including viruses,” he said.

Bahardoust said it’s more important that patients get the plasma products they need than to have an “ideological debate” over whether people should be paid for donating blood.

Gift cards for donations

Wallin, a former journalist who covered the public health crisis and the devastating consequences it had for tens of thousands of Canadians, said the federal government needs to remember two of Krever’s key recommendations in the face of profit-driven companies: that blood donors should not be paid and that no part of the national blood operator’s duties should be contracted out.

“The licensing of paid-plasma clinics in Canada contravenes every single fundamental recommendation of the Krever inquiry,” Wallin said. “We need an immediate moratorium on the granting of any new licences until this issue is fully vetted.”

CPR is collecting plasma in Wallin’s home province and in Moncton, New Brunswick. It offers compensation to donors in the form of prepaid gift cards that can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

To encourage repeat visits, the clinic boosts the payout to $80 for the second donation and $50 for every subsequent visit. The company also enrolls frequent donors in a rewards program — called the Super Hero Rewards loyalty program — which entitles them to participate in draws for giveaways and cash prizes.

Health Canada has licensed these sites despite warnings from Canadian Blood Services (CBS), the country’s principal blood collection agency, which receives public funds to do its work. CBS has said that for-profit clinics undermine the security of Canada’s blood supply.

CPR argues it only seeks healthy donors, who must complete a questionnaire and be screened by on-site medical doctors before donating.

Wallin’s bill would explicitly ban any entity from offering a benefit or remuneration to a donor unless the blood collected is of a rare phenotype.

“This situation is actually shocking — that a country on the leading edge of health care delivery allows blood-brokering to continue,” Wallin said

“Are we allowing these cash-for-blood operations to set up in areas where they will attract people whose health may already be compromised? Are we exploiting young people at universities who are always short of cash?”

Ontario already has taken action, banning collection sites such as CPR’s after the company sought to open three in Ontario — one beside a men’s mission in Toronto, another next to methadone clinic in Hamilton. The site CPR selected in Saskatoon is also in a “troubled spot,” Wallin said.

“I think it’s fair to say they’re exploiting people who are in need of money and that should be an ethical question, a moral question for all of us,” Wallin said. “We need to get this back on the radar.”

Concerns about ‘crowding out’ blood donations

Wallin, who was appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper but now sits as a member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG), has support for a federal solution from a key Tory in the upper house: Conservative Manitoba Sen. Don Plett.

Plett, the party’s whip in the upper house, said blood donors should be motivated by a wish to save lives, not by the lure of cash compensation. He warned that a proliferation of paid clinics could “crowd out” volunteer operations run by Canadian Blood Services.

In fact, recent data suggest unpaid donations have dropped in Saskatoon since CPR started its operations in February 2016.

Plett argues Canadians would be less inclined to offer voluntary donations if cash-for-plasma clinics are able to offer “such fabulous prizes to their donors,” he said.

“With this bill, we have a chance to make a lasting impact on the health system in Canada. We have a chance to prevent our Canadian blood and plasma supplies from being tainted by insincere donors whose donations do not undergo substantive screening processes,” he said.

“We have a chance to stop history from repeating itself and create a new, lasting and safe blood collection mechanism within Canada, one that encourages Canadians to help their fellow man in the interest of goodwill and not in that of profit.”

Blood samples collected by Canadian Blood Services. (CBC)

Critics of Wallin’s bill, and the anti-private plasma donation movement writ large, say this is an example of a ‘not in my backyard’ attitude, as Canada currently imports more than 70 per cent of its plasma-based medication from the U.S.

CPR says the question is not whether Canada will continue to rely on paid donors from its clinics but rather “whether those paid donors will continue to be exclusively American.”

“The insinuation that compensation for donors poses a safety risk … is not only unfounded, it’s actually what we’re doing right now. The only thing we’re trying to do is we want to move part of the production from the U.S. into Canada,” Bahardoust said.

But Blood Watch, an advocacy group that lobbies against private interests in the Canadian blood supply, argues that it is also unacceptable to import so much plasma from the U.S.

“Canadian Blood Services (CBS) started to buy a majority of our plasma-based medication from the U.S. because it was cost-effective. This decision has made us over-reliant on foreign plasma product. If there is a disruption in the U.S. supply chain, Canadians would not have access to our own product because we haven’t secured a strong plasma donor pool,” the group said.

“Private paid plasma in Canada doesn’t help change this. It creates competition.”

To that end, CBS is aiming for a five-fold increase in plasma collection. It has said it would like to collective in excess of 800,000 litres per year through 30 to 40 collection facilities across Canada.


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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes





(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it





Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes





In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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